In today's marketing world, word-or mouth advertising is more important than ever and the internet and social networks have made it more powerful than ever.
Once upon a time, in a village far, far away, there lived a man. His fellow villagers would make things and bring them to the man. Then, he would tell others about the things his villager friends made. He called these things "products" and the villagers who made the products, "manufacturers."
Each day, he would walk about the village and tell someone how wonderful, new, improved or exciting the villagers' products were. He would ask each of the villagers to tell someone else about his manufacturres' products. Soon, villagers from far and wide knew how well these products worked. They wanted the products for their very own. So, the man told the manufacturers to make more of the products for the villagers.
One day, the man thought, "If I tell lots of villagers about the products all at the same time, more villagers will learn about the products faster and the manufacturers will sell more products. They will be happy." And so it would be.
The man climbed to the rooftop and began shouting his messages to all the villagers at at once. He held up placards and wore signs over his shoulders as he walked along the path. He painted big pictures near the edge of the path between the villages with short, catchy phrases. Villagers saw these messages as they walked briskly on their way to the nearby village.
One day, he was painting the big pictures when he looked down the path and saw another man doing the same. Startled, he approached and asked the man, "What are you doing?" The second man replied, "Writing ads." "Ads?" he asked. "Yes, ads. Advertisements." "Uh-huh," said the first man. He looked at the second man's work. It was good. It told the villager more about his manufacturers' products and in a more clever way. "I must be better," he concluded, "more entertaining, funnier. If I make them laugh and cry, the villagers will want to buy my manufacturers' products."
Soon, there were hundreds of ad men painting big pictures along the paths between the villages and all of them were shouting from rooftops and wearing signs as they walked up and down the path.
The villagers became distracted by the signs and eventually found them annoying. They didn't know which of the ads to believe -- if any -- and the shouting from rooftops made neighborly conversation impossible. The villagers stopped listening. They quit looking at the signs. They no longer believed the ads, the ad men or the manufacturers who made the products. They stopped buying the products they saw in the big, painted pictures and only bought those products their fellow villagers told them were good.
Soon, the man had no manufacturers for whom he could paint colorful pictures of their products. He had nothing he could shout about from rooftops. The villagers no longer bought those products and the manufacturers went bankrupt.
New products emerged, however, made by manufacturers who told people about their products in a different way. This "different" way was, in truth, an old way. It was word-of-mouth advertising. Although it was an old way, there was a new quality about it: It was done on a massive scale through a communication network called the internet.
Villagers posted messages on web logs, or blogs. They told one another about the products they liked through e-mail and text messages. The villagers shared their favorite things through social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. They rated products and services on websites like Angie's List and Zillow.
Liife was good. Villagers made products and told other villagers about their products through old-fashioned work-of-mouth advertising ... to hundreds of people all at once. Then they told their friends, who told their friends, who told ...
The moral of the story: It is no longer enough to entertain to get your message through. Today, consumers are skeptical of messages they see and hear in broadcast advertising, glossy magazines and snappy radio jingles. More than ever, the good word from a friend carries greater weight than the creations of ad men. Nowadays, the most effective marketing is the recommendation passed from villager to villager and from village to village. Building a marketing communications strategy for your business is considerably more complex than even 5 years ago. Now, an effective marketing program must include not only targeted mass media but a grass-roots effort as well; a one-on-one interaction with potential buyers and a message communicated in a personal way ... on a massive scale.